“A Day In The Life” with Toronto Creative Joel “French” Desbois

Joel “French” Desbois is a Toronto-based musician and visual artist whose primary medium is fountain pen and ink. Self taught, he took up drawing upon moving to Toronto from Northern Ontario over 10 years ago. He has created artwork and show posters for a number of Canadian and International acts and has been displayed at a handful of gallery showings. His artwork is often crude and bizarre with humourous overtones and he cites R. Crumb as his primary stylistic influence but also loves the work of Dave Berg, Bob Clarke, Ralph Steadman, Marcel Dzama and Mattias Adolffson, to name a few.

Joel also plays guitar in Sam Coffey And The Iron Lungs, a rock and roll band whose previous singles “Talk 2 Her”, “Tough” and “First Time” have graced the National Radio charts. Their newest album “REAL ONE” was released this February on Dine Alone Records and their newest single “Back With The Gang” is currently climbing the modern rock charts.

Joel French
This photo was taken by my partner Alix on a visit to my parents up North. We bring our cribbage board almost everywhere we go. She beats me most of the time and is an incredible photographer. Her work can be found on IG @acritchphoto and @whosalix
Gotta love kitty cuddles. Here I am with Peanut Butter and Jelly. Peanut is a boy and loves me to bits. He follows me everywhere. Jelly is a girl and couldn’t be more annoyed by me no matter what I do. You win some, you lose some. This was taken by my partner shortly after moving into our current place.
Joel French
Nothing helps me recharge the battery and draw up some fresh inspiration like spending time with friends. If sunshine and water can be added to the mix I am usually a very happy boy. This was taken at my friend Lindsay’s place out in Oshawa a while back.
Joel French
This photo was taken in the winter a few months before COVID hit us. The band was out of the city recording a live session for Sunrise Records to help promote our newest album (REAL ONE – Dine Alone Records) which, due to COVID, was only released in February 2021. We are all hoping we get to tour this record at some point this year but the chances are looking slim at this point. This was a very fun day and these live sessions can be found online by searching the band name in YouTube.
Joel French
This photo was taken by my mother in 1990 in my hometown of Timmins, ON. She was obsessed with Corey Hart and gave me that sick mullet. I hated it growing up but I wish I could grow it like that now. My mom must have known at a young age that entertaining people was in my blood. It’s what I love to do most, whether it be through music or my artwork. Getting a reaction out of someone for something I’ve done is what I live for.
Joel French
This is probably one of the photos that best represents me in my happiest environment. Hunched over, drawing something silly, wearing my Woodhouse t-shirt (which I designed) with some books and instruments surrounding me.
Joel French
I love bike riding and I love REO Speedwagon. There isn’t much else that needs to be said about this photograph. This was taken in my old bedroom when I lived on College St in the first months of COVID. We’ve since moved to Parkdale.
Joel French
Although I do some digital work and have been teaching myself to use watercolours over the last few months the vast majority of my work is still done with a fountain pen and ink. There’s something about the scraping sound of the pen on paper that really soothes me.

What ‘hood are you in?

I’ve lived in 6 different neighbourhoods since moving to Toronto and even though I currently live in Parkdale I would be hard pressed to pick just one to call my hood. I would say that you can put me anywhere between Bloor and Lakeshore, Spadina and Roncy and I’ll have a great time! I’ve only lived in the East End once and although I love it there my heart belongs to the West End.

What do you do?

Aside from drawing I spend a lot of my time working on music, either alone or with my band Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs, or focusing on my work with Woodhouse Brewing Co. where I serve as both a Retail and Territory Sales Manager, amongst other things. I also love watching the Jays and the Raps and spending time with my lovely partner Alix and our two cats Peanut Butter and Jelly. We recently just had our first baby together! So naturally that is taking up a majority of our time at the moment.

What are you currently working on?

I’m always working on trying to get better at what I do. For my art I am currently trying to incorporate various online courses and lessons to my drawing routines to improve my technique and versatility. As a self taught artist I’ve picked up plenty of bad habits that could use correcting but sometimes that also adds to the charm. It’s all about finding that perfect balance while having your own voice. I’d like to have another art show or two in late 2021 or 2022 as well. As for music, I’ve been trying to get better at that too. Again, I’m self taught and have a TON of bad habits but I’ve been taking piano lessons, learning music theory and trying to familiarize myself with the home recording process so I can start doing more things on my own.

Where can we find your work?

My artwork can be found on IG @frenchart and my personal life can be monitored @joelfrench

My music can be heard by searching Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs in any streaming service or you can find us @coffeyandlungs